The DLA ISSUE – What about the 'Unsung Heroes'?

Swingeing general cut backs under the new coalition government may be necessary to help the ailing economy but those affecting benefits could well have an adverse effect on the disabled and the new reforms, particularly to the Disabled Living Allowance (DLA), will almost certainly affect amputees.

Please make yourself aware of how these potential changes could affect you before it’s too late. The target for the reformation of the ‘gateway’ to DLA is January 2011 to November 2011 and the new DLA assessment is targeted for April 2013.

It is undoubtedly right to crack down on people who abuse the system but it is equally not right to remove benefits from people who genuinely need the support to enable them to lead independent, active lives. Unfortunately, because of the high cost of rehabilitation and prosthetics, amputees are likely to be vulnerable.

Currently most amputee soldiers are very well served by Headley Court and other facilities and there is no doubt that Help for Heroes has done fantastic and valuable work in raising funds and awareness of their plight. However, there are also a lot of  ‘Unsung Heroes’ out there too. Civilian amputees also need support and facilities.

Here, for interest, is a link to the Draft Reform Paper, July 2010: http://www.number10.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/SRP-DWP.pdf

And for information about the Disability Living Allowance as it currently stands: http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/disabledpeople/financialsupport/dg_10011731

If you have stories or information you’d like to share, we’d love to hear from you and will be running a Blog on this hugely important issue.

You can also discuss the situation and how it might affect you, with other amputees through the Discussion Forum: /forum

If you have any concerns, would like more information or would simply like to discuss this issue in person, Leggz of Limb-Line would also love to hear from you. You can contact her by email in the first instance at: leggz.space@rocketmail.com

In the meantime, here are a couple of related stories that may be of interest:

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Soldier who Lost Leg in Afghanistan has £180 Disability Cash Axed

Pte Aron Shelton, 26, lost the benefit as he can now limp 400 metres. Aron, of East Yorks, said: “I fight for my country but it doesn’t even look after me.”

Private Aron Shelton

To his country, Private Aron Shelton gave up nine years of his life.

He lost one leg and may yet lose the other. He saw one of his best friends killed in the explosion that has crippled him for life.

In return? His country did not think him worth a paltry £180 a month to help him cope with those injuries.

Aron, 26, who has also served in Northern Ireland, reflected yesterday: “I go to war and fight for my country, but I come home and the Government doesn’t even look after me. It’s not a lot to ask for.

“But they don’t give a stuff. I feel like I’ve left one battle and got into another.”

It is a sadness and anger shared by fiancée Callan Fowler, 20, who fumed: “Aron has not only fought for his country, he has lost a limb. The whole system stinks.”

The heroic soldier, of 2 Mercian, was in a Land Rover in Lashkar Gar, Helmand Province, when it was hit by an explosion in June 2007.

CRUELLEST

The blast killed his friend, Drummer Thomas Wright, 21, and badly wounded three comrades.

Aron suffered dreadful injuries to both legs but for months bravely battled through the agony.

However, he remained in such excruciating pain that the left limb was amputated below the knee in December 2008. Doctors warn he is likely to lose the other by the time he is 40 because of arthritis linked to his injuries.

He courageously learnt to use his prosthetic limb, taking pride from being able to hobble a few hundred gruelling yards even though it left him racked in pain.

Yet his determination to walk again was rewarded in the cruellest way imaginable when Department for Work and Pensions penpushers ruled it meant he no longer deserved his £180-a-month Disability Living Allowance.

The dad of one, from Bridlington, East Yorks, said: “I can walk unaided up to 400 metres. After that I am in a lot of pain.

“The top of my left leg and my right leg is filled with metal. I’m all nuts and bolts. My right ankle is a mash of bones and I will lose the leg in 10 to 15 years due to arthritis. When I walk, because of the pain I spend the next day sat on my backside. It’s a struggle to do anything such as getting dressed or cooking.

“Day-to-day stuff is a battle in itself. I cannot stand for long on my prosthetic leg – five minutes at the most. When my feet hurt I have to sit down to rest.”

Rather than being paid to him in cash, Aron’s £180 allowance were paid to him in kind, with benefit chiefs giving him a specially adapted Vauxhall Astra.

He was sent a review form two months ago on which he admitted he could now walk 400 metres unaided.

But he was stunned to receive a letter on Wednesday pointing out he was now losing his state help. Two sections headed “Mobility” and “Care” callously spelled out that his benefits would end in September and he would have to hand back the car.

He said: “I managed to walk 400 metres off my own back. It took sheer guts and determination. Because I can walk that distance and was honest enough to tell them, the benefit is being taken away from me and with it my means of getting around.

“It’s not like I want to pay bills or mortgage. I just want my freedom – the means to get about and have some quality of life.”

SHABBY

Aron still needs to see doctors in Leeds regularly to get his limb adjusted. He now fears he will now find it prohibitively expensive to travel there.

His shabby treatment flies in the face of promises David Cameron made to troops in Afghanistan’s, Helmand province last month. The Prime Minister told them: “I want to put you front and centre of national life again. I want you to help me create a new atmosphere in our country, an atmosphere where we back and revere and support our military.”

In one last throw of the dice, brave Aron hoped his years of service for his country might count for something. They did not.

He revealed: “I asked the Department for Work and Pensions to look at my past record. They said, ‘No, we’re only interested in now’. The Government is very tight-fisted and they have got it so very wrong.”

Last night a DWP spokesman said: “Disability Living Allowance isn’t paid based on the condition someone has but on the extra costs they may have because of their specific needs or difficulties.

“Issues such as this are why we are making changes to the way we assess eligibility to the allowance.”

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Benefits Halved – Soldier, Neil Duffy Returns Medals

For almost 20 years, Neil Duffy was proud to serve Queen and country across the world.

Sergeant Neil Duffy

As a sergeant in the Royal Artillery, he survived missile attacks and lost several of his close friends in combat.

But following his discharge from the Army on grounds of ill health last year, Mr Duffy says he has been left feeling suicidal after the Government halved his benefits  –  effectively making his family homeless.

Today he revealed that he had sent all four of his Army medals back to David Cameron in protest at his treatment.

He said he will not consider wearing them again until the Prime Minister helps servicemen and women ‘regain their dignity’ by altering the way the benefits system operates.

He said: ‘I received my medals for serving my country, but I’ve decided to return them to David Cameron for the disgusting way my country has served me since I left the Army.

‘After 20 years of faithful service, I am unable to provide for my family due to injuries and illness I suffered.

‘Now, at the time I need it most, the country for which I would have paid the ultimate sacrifice has turned its back on me.

‘My life has changed from that of a sergeant in the Army, to a man with nothing to his name, no money, no job, no home. I often think about ending it all but only my family keep me going.’

Mr Duffy, 36, joined the 12th Regiment Royal Artillery two months short of his 16th birthday in 1990.

He completed three tours of Cyprus and was sent to Northern Ireland, Poland and Oman, before serving in the Iraq war in 2003.

While stationed in Kuwait his regiment came under missile attack and three of his friends died in battle.

‘After we came home I started to get terrible flashbacks and suicidal thoughts,’ Mr Duffy, of Stockport, said. ‘I just couldn’t cope with what I had seen and been through.’

Eventually, he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and was discharged in June last year.

During his time in the Army he received four medals; for his service in Cyprus, for Operation Telic during the Iraq war, a Queen’s Jubilee medal and a gold conduct medal for 15 years’ service.

On his discharge the Government agreed to pay Mr Duffy, who has been left unable to work, £1,140 in disability living allowance and employment support allowance.

He also receives an Army pension of £950 a month. However, in January, without any medical assessment, he was told the disability living allowance was being stopped and the employment support allowance was being cut, leaving him with benefits of £514.80.

He and his partner Kim, 37, and their children, Alex, 16, Charlotte, nine, and Jessica, 20 months, have been staying with relatives because they say they cannot afford to feed, clothe and house themselves.

Miss Duffy is also unable to work after suffering two strokes. She receives £188.40 disability living allowance, so the family have just over £1,600 a month on which to survive. She said: ‘It’s really hard, we’ve been moving around for 12 months now. We are living with Neil’s grandmother at the moment.

‘Neil is very unwell and it is hard for me to hear him talking about wanting to end his life.

‘The Government make me sick that they can abandon people like Neil who’ve given their lives to serve their country.’

The Department of Work and Pensions said Mr Duffy’s benefits were cut because he did not apply for them to be renewed correctly and failed to appeal against the decision.

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